Ante-Post Preview #5 – 26/02/2019
2m½f Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – Wednesday 13th March 2019
The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is one of two races at the Cheltenham Festival for four-year-olds, and this race is usually made up of horses not quite up to Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle standard. Last year the race was won by Gordon Elliot’s Veneer Of Charm, with the likes of Diego Du Charmil and Sanctuaire also on the honors list. The race is run over two-miles-and-half-a-furlong on Wednesday of the Festival and is the last race over obstacles on the Old Course, before action switches over to the New Course the following day.
Gordon Elliot is building up a good record in the race, sending at least two horses for each renewal since winning with Flaxen Flare in 2013. The County Meath Trainer won the race last season as mentioned above with Veneer Of Charm, and could’ve won in 2016 had Campeador not taken a crushing fall at the last when mounting a strong challenge. This year he is set to be strongly represented once more, and Surin looks to have a fantastic chance. When you look through this Gigginstown Runner’s profile, she really has some top-class form in the book. Winner of a Market Rasen “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race for Mario Hofer in October by a neck, this three-year-old changed hands for £72,000 at the Cheltenham November Sales to go to Ireland and race in the famous maroon colours. This Filly made her debut over Hurdles at Punchestown in December under Jack Kennedy, and despite leading after the last, she was just headed near the finish by Joseph O’Brien’s Gardens Of Babylon. Three lengths back in third that day was Padraig Roche’s Way Back Home, who has since won twice – including the Grade 3 Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Surin’s next run came at Fairyhouse in January, where she again faced Gardens Of Bablyon in another thrilling battle. Held up behind the leaders under Jack Kennedy, this daughter of Authorized improved going well to lead narrowly at the second last, and kept on extremely gamely under pressure to lead at the line and beat her old rival by a nose. She was of course getting 12lbs that day, however the way she battled against such a good rival (particularly of the other sex) clearly highlights her ability. Stepped up to Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival, Surin again stood her ground as being one of the best Irish Juvenile Hurdlers when placing third behind Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Erec. Chasing the leader and making a few slight jumping errors, Gordon Elliot’s rising star held second place for the duration of the contest, until Gardens Of Babylon once again got the better of her by half-a-length; proving there is very little between the two horses. Back in fourth that day was the well fancied Tiger Tap Tap from the Willie Mullins yard, who is another horse that will likely be turning up for the Grade 1 event rather than this Handicap.
With all this top-class form in the book you would think that Surin would be rated too high for the Fred Winter, however she has been given a fantastic chance by the Irish Handicapper who has allotted her a very fair mark of 131 (collaterally raised a pound from 130). The UK Handicapper is likely to add a few more pounds to this when the weights are unveiled this week, however it is clearly a very workable mark. When looking at the rest of that Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle field, Sir Erec was given a mark of 149 by the HRI, Gardens Of Babylon 140, and the fifth placed horse Chief Justice 134 – which shows she is well treated – especially as she was only six-and-a-half lengths behind the 11/10 Triumph Hurdle Favourite. With Jack Kennedy likely to retain the ride on this Filly for the Fred Winter, I feel she has the best chance of the Gordon Elliot battalion. It’s worth noting that in the fourteen renewals to date, four Fillies have won – but none since 2012.
Surin Each/Way @ 14/1 NRNB
Joseph O’Brien has had an absolute stranglehold on the Juvenile Hurdle division this season – so much so that he even has the second favourite in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – and I think Band Of Outlaws is another horse worth backing in this strong looking Fred Winter. Clearly he isn’t an original selection being the current Ante-Post favourite, however I think that the current price of 8/1 will be much shorter come the day. First of all you would have to feel that Gardens Of Babylon will run in the Triumph Hurdle having already been given a mark of 140 by the Irish Handicapper – however this impressive Naas winner has been given a chance from an Irish mark of 134.
Third behind Maze Runner on Hurdles debut in December this 93 rated Flat Horse jumped atrociously at Cork, but finished extremely fast to take third close from home. Joseph O’Brien clearly schooled Band Of Outlaws intensively after this run as he jumped a lot better at Limerick on Boxing Day, when winning a strong looking three-year-old Maiden. J J Sleven was very patient on this son of Fast Company, going second at the last flight and again showing a fantastic turn of foot to reel in Future Proof a shade cosily in the end. Willie Mullins’ promising Mixmoon was in third that day, but more importantly Fine Brunello was six-lengths behind our selection in fourth – with that rival since franking the form by finishing second on Cheltenham Trials Day behind stablemate Fakir D’oudairies. Band Of Outlaws showcased his progression over Hurdles last time out by winning the Rated four-year-old Hurdle at Naas earlier this month, reversing previous form with Maze Runner to win by four-and-a-half lengths in very impressive style. He again showed to be one of Owning Hill’s best four-year-olds that day with the promising Konitho well beaten. His running style of settling in the pack before showing a devastating turn of foot under regular jockey J J Slevin should really suit Cheltenham’s unique test, and it’s hard to see him finishing out of the frame as long as the English Handicapper doesn’t give him too big a task at the weights.
Band Of Outlaws Each/Way @ 8/1
Good luck! – Jake Price